By TOM AUSTIN
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: A signed headshot of actor Andy Garcia; a 1960s photo of singer Olga Guillot; an image of the Three Kings Parade in Miami, 1987; the Tropicana Nightclub in Havana; a Tropicana stage show
Viewed online, the collection is as random as real history, a mad jumble of grit and glory: Early Daisy Fuentes yields to middle-period Andy Garcia; Bobby Fischer playing a Cuban chess whiz slides into oozing-with-corruption Fulgencio Batista, looking like he’s about to take a bribe in The Godfather: Part II; the young Olga Guillot with the Arsenio Rodríguez band dissolves into shots of the Three Kings Parade in Miami and an idealized Elián González portrait. And of course, there’s the drop-dead glamour of Havana, a time that will never come again: Beny Moré and Celia Cruz on stage, commanding and invincible; the Tropicana in the 1950s, still the definitive nightclub, a touchstone for what it means to drink, smoke and gaze upon an ideal universe.
It’s all here, an armchair tour of Cuban but also international history, and a look at Miami as well. To see the shots of the Tropicana in its heyday, or Celia Cruz at full salsa-shaking throttle, is to be left with a sense of loss. But one thing is certain: This island has never stopped knowing how to wrench a good time out of any circumstance.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI LIBRARIES CUBAN HERITAGE COLLECTION
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.